Kettlebells are the cannonball-shaped workout tools you should add to your routine if you want to get a leaner, tighter figure without spending much time. If you've seen these handled weights at your gym but avoided them because you didn't know what to use them for, you've come to the right place. We quizzed Lorna Kleidman, three-time kettlebell sport world champion, kettlebell instructor in New York City, author of Body Sculpting with Kettlebells for Women, and creator of two upcoming kettlebell workout DVDs, on the ins and outs of shaping up with kettlebells. A former gym rat who spent as much as 2 hours a day going to different fitness classes, Kleidman discovered kettlebell workouts 6 years ago and was able to cut her workout time by nearly two-thirds even as her body became leaner than ever. Here are her seven reasons why you should make kettlebell training part of your workout routine:
1. They'll help you get a celebrity body.
Worried these weights will make your body look like one of the Russian bodybuilders who originally started working with them? Svelte and strong fans of kettlebell workouts include Jessica Biel, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Aniston, Penelope Cruz, Kim Cattrall, and Kim Basinger.
2. You'll have an easier time performing daily activities.Working out with a kettlebell is the definition of what fitness pros call a "functional" workout. That means it works your muscles in the same way as when you do everyday activities, like picking up a toddler, carrying your laptop bag, hoisting a gallon of milk, or lugging a heavy grocery bag. If swinging a weight around instead of holding it in your hand like a dumbbell seems intimidating, think of it like a heavier version of your purse, which carries the weight on the end of its strap, says Kleidman. We bet your purse or work bag will feel a lot lighter after a few kettlebell sessions anyway!
3. You'll fire up more muscles with each swing.One of the biggest mistakes novices make with kettlebell training is not taking a session or two with a certified trainer. The trainer can help you to learn proper form as well as be more creative with the movements, says Kleidman. Sure, you can hold the weight in front of your chest as you do squats or lunges or use it to do arm curls, but if that's all you do, you'll be missing out on all the incredible three-dimensional movements it's made for—and the effects those exercises can have on your body. One major difference between traditional weights and kettlebells is that while you try to avoid "cheating" by using momentum in everyday dumbbell moves, kettlebells are all about creating—and controlling—momentum. By swinging the bell in different patterns, and then controlling the momentum to change directions, you tap into big powerhouse muscles (like your legs and butt) and smaller stability muscles (like your abs) throughout the workout. If you're looking for inspiration and instruction, book a couple of sessions with a qualified instructor or buy a kettlebell workout book or DVD.
Make sure you start off with a total-body warm-up. Getting the blood flowing to your muscles is essential for any workout, but more than ever when you're swinging an iron ball around. Kleidman recommends going beyond walking or jogging to get your cardiovascular system and your muscles and joints loosened up. She recommends doing some shoulder rolls, squats, lunges, plank holds or push-ups (on knees, if necessary), and jumping jacks before starting the kettlebell portion of your workout.